In a move to “return to sound science” a major theme of his Presidential campaign, President Obama plans to remove certain key restrictions on federal funding of our current embryonic research policy.
The Bush Administration restrictions set early in this century limited the research to a set of embryonic stem cells created before August 2001. There were only 22 viable cell lines available for distribution. All of these cells had been created using mouse cells. This means that none of these cells could be used in humans to avoid spreading mouse viruses to humans; so essentially these cells were unlikely to ever be used for medical purposes. These were the only cells available for use in federally funded experiments. By overturning these restrictions Obama is fulfilling one of his campaign promises. He is creating hope for the future of patients throughout the nation; and giving American scientists the resources to catch up with the rest of the world.
Stem cell therapies have been around since the late Seventies. Skin-grafting and bone marrow transplantation are both examples of stem cell therapies currently in use. Obama’s reversal of the policy will allow scientists to use stem cells free of animal molecules and chromosomal abnormalities that have made the previous lines virtually unusable.
Many scientists will now be able to research the new lines that carry the genetic signatures of the diseases they study. None of the Bush lines had that feature.
Embryonic stem cells can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Scientists believe they will be able to train these cells into becoming heart or pancreatic cells for patients suffering from heart or pancreatic conditions. They also believe these cells can become replacement brain cells for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s sufferers.
Many conservatives are upset by this. They object to the use of these cell lines, feeling that the destruction of human embryos ends a human life.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos.”